FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to telecommunications in general, and, more particularly, to changing the user interface at a telecommunications terminal.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 1 depicts a schematic diagram of a telecommunications system in the prior art. Telecommunications system 100 comprises:
i. the Public Switched Telephone Network,
ii. private branch exchange 102,
iii. telecommunications terminals 103-1 and 103-2,
iv. telecommunications terminals 110-1 and 110-2, and
v.; telecommunications terminal 111; all of which are interconnected as shown.
The Public Switched Telephone Network (i.e., element 101) is a complex of telecommunications equipment that is owned and operated by different entities throughout the World. In the United States of America, for example, the Public Switched Telephone Network (or “PSTN”) comprises an address space that is defined by ten digits, and, therefore, comprises 10 billion unique addresses or “telephone numbers.” The Public Switched Telephone Networks in other countries are similar.
The Public Switched Telephone Network provides telecommunications service to telecommunications terminals 110-1, 110-2, and 111. Telecommunications terminals 110-1, 110-2, and 111 can be either wireline terminals or wireless terminals, or a combination of both.
Private branch exchange 102 is capable of switching incoming calls (e.g., from terminal 111, etc.) from the Public Switched Telephone Network via one or more transmission lines to terminals 103-1 and 103-2. Private branch exchange 102 is also capable of handling outgoing calls from terminals 103-1 and 103-2 to the Public Switched Telephone Network via one or more transmission lines.
Private branch exchange 102 is capable of also extending an incoming call (e.g., from terminal 111, etc.) to a telephone number of an “off-premises” terminal in the Public Switched Telephone Network, in addition to switching the same incoming call to an “on-premises terminal” within the enterprise area (e.g., an office building, etc.) that is served by exchange 102. Terminals 103-1 and 103-2 are considered to be on-premises terminals with respect to private branch exchange 102, while terminals 110-1 and 110-2 are considered to be off-premises terminals.
To accomplish the switching of an incoming, enterprise-related call to one of on-premises terminals 103-1 and 103-2, and the extending of the call to one of off-premises terminals 110-1 and 110-2, private branch exchange 102 maintains a table that correlates the off-premises telephone number to the on-premises, private branch exchange (PBX) extension. Table 1 depicts a table that illustrates the correlation.
PBX Extension-to-PSTN Number Database
. . .
. . .
. . .
As an example, a caller at terminal 111 who wishes to reach the PBX user of terminal 103-1 dials the PBX number (i.e., 732-555-0102). Private branch exchange 102 receives the incoming call, including the extension number (i.e., x11). Using information stored in memory and similar to what is shown in Table 1, private branch exchange 102 determines that the call is also to be extended to off-premises telephone number 201-555-1236, associated with terminal 110-1. The off-premises number corresponds to the off-premises terminal (e.g., a cellular phone, a home phone, etc.) that belongs to the PBX user of terminal 103-1. The idea behind transmitting the call to both terminal 103-1 and 110-1 is that if the PBX user is not reachable at his office phone (i.e., terminal 103-1), then maybe he is reachable at a phone that is outside of the office (i.e., terminal 110-1). The caller\'s experience is enhanced by the caller only having to use a single telephone number to reach the PBX user, even if the user is not in the office.
In contrast, the called PBX user\'s experience in the prior art can be very different than that of the caller. Even with a call that has been extended to the user from the private branch exchange, the caller has an expectation that the user will respond to the call—and moreover to the caller—as if the user is at the office. The caller, after all, has called a business number. The user, however, answers the call at an outside phone that has a different user interface than that of the office phone. Furthermore, the user might receive only minimal information for establishing the context of the call, which presents additional challenges to the user because the redirected calls that arrive from the private branch exchange are mainly from people (e.g., customers calling tech support, etc.) who are strangers to the user. In using the outside phone, the user\'s ability to respond to the caller is potentially diminished, compared to using the office phone.
What is needed is a technique to enhance how a telecommunications terminal and its user interact, without some of the disadvantages in the prior art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention changes one or more properties of a user interface at a telecommunications terminal based on an incoming call. When a first caller calls the telephone number of the terminal directly and the terminal answers the call, the terminal presents the direct call to the user through a first user interface. When a second caller calls a telephone number that is associated with a data-processing system and the call is then redirected to the terminal, the terminal presents the redirected call to the user through a second user interface. For example, the telecommunications terminal can be a cell phone that belongs to a user, and the data-processing system can be a private branch exchange that serves an office enterprise network that the user belongs to, wherein the private branch exchange extends the call to the user\'s cell phone when the user is out of the office.
The user interface of the terminal is characterized by one or more properties that govern how a user interacts with: (i) the terminal, (ii) a call or calls handled by the terminal, and (ii) one or more data-processing systems accessible by the terminal. The user interface properties include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
i. how calls are presented to the user;
ii. the treatment that a user can apply to calls;
iii. the call-dependent features available to the user;
iv. the call-independent features available to the user;
v. how a user invokes the features;
vi. the number of accessible call appearances;
vii. the functions that are assigned to the terminal\'s soft keys;
viii. the menus available to the user;
ix. how the user accesses the menus; and
x. the speed dialing list that is in effect.
In accordance with the illustrative embodiment of the present invention, the telecommunications terminal is capable of handling M different user interface properties, wherein M is a positive integer. The telecommunications terminal of the illustrative embodiment is also capable of handling N different operating modes, wherein N is a positive integer. The term “operating mode” refers to the telecommunications terminal operating as an off-premises terminal to an enterprise network, as its user\'s personal cell phone, or in yet another operating mode.
The data-processing system and telecommunications terminal of the illustrative embodiment are a private branch exchange and a cell phone, respectively. In accordance with the illustrative embodiment of the present invention, the off-premises, telecommunications terminal receives a call from the private branch exchange that was originated to the enterprise network, along with an indication that the call has been extended to the terminal. The terminal changes one or more properties of its user interface because the call has been extended to the terminal.
By changing the user interface based on the incoming call, the illustrative embodiment of the present invention enhances the user\'s call-handling experience, in that the user is provided with the proper context in which to handle the call. For calls that have been redirected from the private branch exchange, the terminal might change its user interface, for example, to resemble that of the user\'s office phone, with respect to features, menus, functions, and so forth. The same terminal might change its user interface back to that of an ordinary cell phone for a call that is directly incoming to the terminal (i.e., not through the private branch exchange).